Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the US. A day which commemorates the first harvest feast celebrated by the earliest British Puritan settlers after their arrival in the North America. The history of the event is steeped in American iconography and mythology.

Most histories tell something of the gratitude of the British settlers towards the Native Americans, who taught the new kids what grew where, introduced them to new foods,(Calvin Trillin has written that Spaghetti Carbonara was an revered gift from the Native peoples to the Brits)and generally helped them survive their first winters in America.

Little is written about how whitey showed his gratitude, repaying his debt primarily with the wrong end of a blunderbust, and systematic genocide, but we moderns prefer to overlook these inconvenient truths, at least this week.

Each family has there own Thanksgiving dinner tradition.

Bless her bones, my mother was not a good cook. I'll give her the benefit of the doubt, and factor in how a lifetime of 3 squares/day, 4 picky eaters, a traveling husband, and general lack of interest will take its toll on anyone. It didn't keep her from facing the kitchen every day though. Thanksgiving was her day to shine.

If you have never done it, Thanksgiving dinner is not a hard meal to prepare. A bit of prior planning helps, as does a thorough knowledge of what is expected by your family. If everyone is expecting turkey, and you serve pork, regardless of how great dinner was you have set yourself up for failure.

This post kicked off in a battle of comments last week. Most T-day foods are cliches, kicked off by the makers of mini marshmallows, canned onion ring bits, or cream of soup. Real food need hardly apply.

So what family foods will show up on your table this week, and does anyone really like or eat it, or has it just always been there?



Shelley said...

Our menu:

Some recipes

Real food reigns!!!

James said...

I'm afraid ours is a table laden with cliches. Well prepared by my wife and enjoyed by all. BUT no mini marshmallows!

Anonymous said...

My Yankee Mother-in-Law insists on the combo of pureed carrots&turnips every Thanksgiving table.
Plus, boiled (within an inch of their mushy selves) onions.
Not a good cook, but predictable.

Silk Regimental said...

Down East Poultry Stuffing
from my foodie blog:


Usually a day or two before a holiday I call my sister in Connecticut and we talk about what we are preparing for the “big dinner” and she always asks “are you making Grammies stuffing?” Our family and our extended family just rave about this stuffing that has been handed down from my grandmother, modified by my father, and over the last few years I’ve made some changes to it as well. Everyone wants a take-home bag of this stuffing!

In addition to being a delicious stuffing for turkey or chicken, it is a wonderful alternative to bacon or sausage with eggs for breakfast (just form it into a patty and fry). It also makes a wonderful filling for butterflied pork chops.

Back in the 1950s, my grandmother raised chickens in Rumford, Maine and sold the eggs. When we’d go to visit in the summer, she would prepare a big chicken dinner for us all and we’d eat outside in the small (snow) apple orchard in front of her house. She would always make this stuffing and my father would beg her for the instructions on how to make it. She always said, “oh, I just throw it together with some of this and some of that”. We were finally able to get it written down. Over the years my father changed the recipe a bit, but it was still that wonderful Maine stuffing!

Over the years I kept my father’s version of this recipe and made one small change (using chicken broth rather than water early in the cooking process), which really enhances the down home flavor.


1 pound of 90% lean ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 large, or two medium yellow onions – medium dice

5 stalks of celery (with leafy tops), medium dice

1 large green bell pepper, medium dice

2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon Bell’s Poultry Seasoning

2 14 oz. cans of prepared chicken broth OR 4 cups home-made chicken stock

¼ cup fresh chopped curly parsley

¼ cup real maple syrup

One large bag of Pepperidge Farm Corn Bread Stuffing

½ cup water or chicken stock (if needed at the end)

1 cup plain bread crumbs (if needed at the end)

Recipe instructions:

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the ground pork and with a wooden spoon break it up rendering its fat without draining it off. Add the ground beef also breaking it up until it is loose and blend the two meats together.

Next, add all of the vegetable ingredients (onion, celery, green pepper) and blend it into the meat mixture. Season with the coarse salt and black pepper and mix well.

Add the chicken broth (or stock) until the liquid just covers the other ingredients, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let this simmer slowly until all of the vegetables are tender (approximately 20 to 25 minutes).

Remove the pot from the heat and add the chopped parsley, Bell’s Seasoning, and maple syrup and stir together until those ingredients are completely incorporated making sure that the seasoning and maple syrup are throughout the mixture.

Lastly, add the Pepperidge Farm Corn Bread Stuffing Mix and with the wooden spoon combine until all of the bread is soaked into the wet mixture. This should be a very firm but moist mixture. If too thin (wet), you can add some plain bread crumbs. If firm, you can add some additional chicken broth or water. This makes a large quantity of stuffing – serves 8 – 10, but you will want more for leftovers!!

Stuff chicken or turkey loosely with the stuffing and roast according to brand instructions.

Set aside additional stuffing in a casserole dish with a cover or foil and heat at 325 until completely warmed through.

For breakfast, form cold stuffing into 3 inch round patties of even thickness and fry on medium heat with a little butter or margarine until lightly golden on both sides – serve with your favorite style of eggs.

M.Lane said...

I usually have all the traditional dishes and I like them and I eat them and I DO love mini marshmallows and crunchy fried onions on my green bean cassarole!!!!!!!! There I said it.

Anyhow, last year the Irish Redhead was so stressed out for some reason about our [as in the two of us] preparing food that I gave out a very rare proclamation that we would only have seafood. Well, and green bean cassarole. With onions. We had boiled shrimp, crawfish pie [premade], stone crab claws [cooked by the seafood store], and fresh grouper [broiled at home]. I opened a bottle of wine [for me as nobody else drinks]. We said prayers and were thankful. Which, after all, is the point of a thanksgiving feast. It was marvelous.


Kathy said...

Ours is always also "a table laden with cliches" (thanks James-- perfect). My mother was a good cook, but I think she got bored with the cliches after a while. One year she made calzones. The real deal-- made the dough, made the sauce, probably made the sausage with which they were stuffed. Talk about setting herself up for failure! We aren't Italian. The calzones were wonderful, but we were all appalled.

Have a wonderful holiday everybody!

Suburban Princess said...

I have never had any of the cliche TG sides...never seen a marshmallow on a table...nor a canned onion ring. I suspect I need to get myself to an American TG next year!
Our TG dinner is turkey, ham, lots of sides, mostly roasted veggies, my husband's amazing cran-almond stuffing and a few pies. I suddenly feel a bit boring!

Patsy said...

We serve all the whites - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatos, eastham turnips, creamed onions with a smattering of color - cranberry sauce, canned cranberry jelly, green beans, pickled beets.

Add a liberal amount of alcohol, serve with warm pies, and voila, happiness!

Anonymous said...

I don't care what is served but may I please sit next to Topol at the table.

Ann said...

Thanks for the gesture towards the actual vs the myth in the early part of your post. :)

My daughter (whose wonderful family lives in Santa Cruz) resists thanksgiving every year. partly for political reasons and also because she claims not to enjoy the food...I think it's really that she doesn't enjoy the overly full feeling one can get after a day of cooking and then eating.My daughter also detests the logistical dance required to get the meal to table all at once.

Being a Southern girl transplanted to the SF Bay Area, I have always attempted to preserve some of my mother's wonderful entertaining style, polishing the silver and using beautiful antique serving dishes (brown and white Staffordshire transferware) silver candelabra, my mother's Kirk repousse salt cellars and pepper shakers, lac tablecloth, white linen hemstitch napkins...you get the drill.

In any event, our meal this year will include the traditional turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, stuffed acorn squash and green beans sauteed in sesame oil and garlic. dessert is apple cobbler and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. All organic and as local as possible. California has a nice almost year-round growing season.

Hope your holiday is lovely.

Toad said...

I have loved each and every response today. Gonna try a new dressing recipe, break out some tried and true favorites and enjoy the company of the day. Just as long as I remember to pick up a few odds and ends.

LPC said...

Our tradition is to cook all together, eat all together, and drink a lot.

Anonymous said...

Ann......I live in the SF Bay Area
I loved what you said. Thank you.

Toad? I am new to your blog. I don't know why you go by that moniker. Is it that when one kisses you your current sublimely superby divine essence regresses to a quietly watching frog beside life's pond ...until the next magical person transforms you with another kiss?

Your blog is a breath of fresh.................blog.

Toad said...

Anon welcome. Are you familiar with The Wind in the Willows?

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